Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hope or Incorrigible Optimism?


There are enough reminders of misery all around…..
Corruption, Pollution, Population, Terrorism and the most glaring of them all… the Degradation of Morals, Values Depleting faster than our forests…. the ever Diluting Character of Man…. “As Kalyug progresses in time, the dance of vices will reach the peak of glory and then there will be doom” say the religious leaders and scriptures….

Should I give evil a good fight? Will it be an exercise in futility? Should I swim along the tides? Simply let the universe unfold itself?

And then a voice jolts me from my trance “Look there! It is very feeble. It is frail and delicate. Almost non existent. It is fragile. But it is definitely there. It is hope!”

Chapter 1

Having been born in poverty, the middle class struggled for necessities of life. A scooter was a dream. So was the “own house”. The next generation enjoyed some luxury. The cars came. Then came mobile phones, pagers, fancy music systems. Then there was a flood. Shopping malls mushroomed everywhere and there was an abundance of materials. People shopped and shopped and shopped, until there was nothing more left to buy. But in the end, a thirst still remain unquenched.
A realisation that there is much beyond materials, hit people.
People are turning to Spiritualism. The swamis, gurus have resumed their preaching. There is hope!


There are so many single people everywhere. Marriage seems to have become less universal than before. Those who are marrying are doing it late. Earlier it used to be 24. Now its 29. A few of those who marry don’t want to have children. Many of them have just one child. The binary tree is an inverted one now. Twenty five years from now, India’s biggest problem – Population, which is the root cause of all other problems, should correct itself.(Not a very happy solution, but…) There is hope!

Chapter 3

For several years we stood in awe of the western or English medicine which was so promising. The magical pills, the quick solutions, the sure cure called surgery….But when the anesthesia faded and we opened our eyes, the side effects loomed large before us.
More and more people are now seeking remedy in the time tested school of medicine called Ayurveda. Our own home grown herbs and roots are so much more trustworthy!
People have come home to meditation and Yoga. There is hope!

Chapter 4

Decades of this country’s politics and bureaucracy have been infested with corruption. Everyone talked about it but at the same time believed that no one could do anything. But the revolt has now begun for sure. The movie makers are trying to awaken the dormant spirit in the youth, reassuring them of the power they have. There was Mani Ratnam with Yuva. Aamir khan with Rang De Basanti. Kamala Hassan in Indian and Anil kapoor in Nayak. Central to all these movies is “The Fight Against the System”.
The seeds of revolution once sowed, have begun to germinate. Some students from IIT have started their political party, and seem promising. People are more empowered. The latest reality show, “Lead India” is testimony to the fact that the face of Indian Politics is changing. There is hope!

Chapter 5

The principle of vegetarianism was first enforced by religion - successfully for some time. Then the rational thinking new generation walked away, ate meat and laughed at the grass eaters. When the same science discovered one day that vegetarian diet was more healthy, people paid attention. Also, there is much talk about the way animals are treated, their rights and so on.
Today more and more meat eating people are converting to Vegetarianism. All the slaughtering and butchering should slow down in the near future. There is hope! (No offense to non vegetarians here…you guys enjoy!)

Chapter 6

The like of people reclining in easy chairs, resting in comfortable inaction are a rare species. The common man of India who has enough for himself has started to care about others too and about the causes of this country screaming for attention. There are quite a few NGO’s providing some relief and people are making donations towards the Betterment of the Needy. There is hope!


While I reflect thus………….wondering if this is hope or incorrigible optimism,………………….SKEPTICISM raises it’s hood again. Should I give evil a good fight? Will it be an exercise in futility? Should I swim along the tides? Simply let the universe unfold itself?

For now, I shall believe in the fruitfulness of Karma, in human efforts and doings. I shall tread the path shown to me by men of stature….I shall strive for the causes that I believe in and leave the rest to destiny.

Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana ... ... ..... ...... .......

Monday, February 25, 2008


This season of love, a friend of mine casually commented that there is too much hype about love. That there are so many other things in life that people should be doing instead of being stuck with girlfriends, boyfriends, affairs….. that the movies have a wrong influence on the lives of people. This was a friend who has been committed to a woman for the last 12 years!

I for one, spent all my life talking about love, thinking about love, writing about love in prose, poetry and painting! The only thing that did not happen was the experience of it. Ironically. And I believe that one’s whole world should revolve around love,….if there is no love, there is no life … should be lucky to experience it….. Treasure it and make sacrifices to keep it.

That being my mentality, when people say there is much hype about love… I cannot help being surprised at them!

And then, as if hit by a realisation, I begin to think that there are so many other such “objects” of aspiration in life, eagerly sought by half the population and unenthusiastically dismissed by the other half. I wonder what causes such polarization among people!

Perhaps, people are not so diverse inherently but their circumstances and experiences make them so diverse.

Take the software profession - the “pie in the sky” for thousands of engineering students in hundreds of universities across the country.
After spending four years in IT, after enough exposure to a mediocre crowd and working in ‘n’ number of copy paste projects, I know there is so much hype about IT (but for the lucrative income)…..

The only doll I had when I was 3 years old…was “Aunty Monica”…It was such a prized possession! The child of today, given the luxury of a basketful of more sophisticated toys tosses them all around and plays so very little….

When Doordarshan was the only channel on television, the whole family used to wait for the nine o clock Guniram, then the Mahabharat, Mogli in Jungle Book, watching every program with so much relish. Today most of us don’t watch even one of the 150 odd channels, but simply surf the TV jumping impatiently from one channel to another.

Be it Love, be it Software; be it toys or television, as far as the question goes about “How important is “something” in life? Is the hype too much or too little?”, there can be much debate but the answer is contained in a simple philosophy.

If you already have it in your life, then “there is too much hype about it”.
If you don’t have it, then “people don’t know the value of it”.
And that’s the law of the universe.

Those who have love, think there is too much hype about it and chase wealth. Those who have wealth say “Money is not everything in life” and chase love. Those in cities tour the countryside and those in villages fancy the tall buildings, cars and bikes.

The line from a Kannada folklore says it all“Iruvudellava bittu illaduda kadege hoguvude jeevana”.

That’s life. A journey of perpetual neglect towards what you have and unending pursuit of what you don’t have…….

Reader Digested


29.Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
28.Ha Ha Therapy - Dr. G. Lakshmipathi
27.Autobiography Of A Yogi - Paramahamsa Yogananda
26.Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
25.Waiting For The Barbarians - J M Coetzee
24.Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse
23.Ghost Stories From The Raj - edited by Ruskin Bond
22.Empires Of The Indus - Alice Albinia
21.Glimpses Of World History - Jawaharlal Nehru
20.Burial At Sea - Khushwant Singh
19.The Story of My life - Hellen Keller
18.The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind - Joseph Murphy
17.Kari - Amruta Patil
16.The Company of Women - Khushwant Singh
15.The Dilbert Principle - Scott Adams
14.Best Short Stories Of India - Phyllis Atkinson, RE Enthoven, Krishnaswami Aiyangar
13.A Brief History Of Time - Stephen Hawking
12.The Discovery Of India - Jawaharlal Nehru
11.Sesame And Lilies - John Ruskin
10.Good Work - E F Schumacher
9. Blink - Malcolm Gladwell
8. The Story Of My Experiments With Truth - M K Gandhi
7. Something Fresh - P G Wodehouse
6. Dilbert - The Joy Of Work - Scott Adams
5. The Secret - Rhonda Byrne
4. The Outsider - Albert Camus
3. Fables Of Aesop - Translated By S A Handford
2. Speaking Of Success - Mary Alice Warner
1. Notes To Myself - Hugh Prather


24.The Old Man And The Sea - Ernest Hemingway
23.Paradise And Other Stories - Khushwant Singh
22.The God Of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
21.The Glass Palace - Amitav Ghosh
20.Jonathan Livingston Seagull - Richard Bach
19.Palli Samaj - Sharat Chandra Chatterjee
18.On Dreams - Sigmund Freud
17.Gora - Rabindranath Tagore
16.Tales of Ind - Panchapakesha Ayyar
15.Rajani - Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay
14.To Kill A Mocking Bird - Harper Lee
13.The Importance Of Being Earnest - Oscar Wilde
12.Indira - Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay
11.Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
10.Five point Someone - Chetan Bhagat
9. King Lear - Shakespeare
8. Ramana Maharshi - K Swaminathan
7. Krishnakanta's Will - Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay
6. Delhi - Khushwant Singh
5. Bishabriksha - Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay
4. Daily Inspiration - Robin Sharma
3. The Inheritance Of Loss - Kiran Desai
2. The Moon And Sixpence - Somerset Maugham
1. Kanthapura - Raja Rao


24.Cat O' Nine Tales - Jeffrey Archer
23.I Shall Not Hear The Nightingale - Khushwant Singh
22.Tuesdays With Morrie - Mitch Albom
21.Kapalkundala - Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay
20.Animal Farm - George Orwell
19.Train To Pakistan - Khushwant Singh
18.Small Is Beautiful - E F Schumacher
17.Gopal Krishna Gokhale - Turnbull
16.Chariots of the Gods - Erich Von Daniken
15.The Prophet - Kahlil Gibran
14.Interpreter Of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri
13.Parineeta - Sharat Chandra Chatterjee
12.Doomsday Conspiracy - Sidney Sheldon
11.Devdas - Sharat Chandra Chatterjee
10.One Hundred Years Of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
9. My Boyhood Days - Rabindranath Tagore
8. Nishkriti - Sharat Chandra Chatterjee
7. Gitanjali - Rabindranath Tagore
6. The Zahir - Paulo Coelho
5. The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum
4. A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
3. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
2. The Google Story - David Vise
1. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari - Robin Sharma

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

First Step Of The Thousand Miles

Do you know that Germany wants to have a patent for Sanskrit? Do you know that Bhagavadgeetha is a part of the MBA syllabus in certain German universities?
Do you know that Sanskrit is the world’s most scientific language?

It is too unfortunate that in its own birth place, India, Sanskrit has suffered much neglect.

Anyway, to study Sanskrit in depth has been a childhood dream. It is one of those several things I wanted to do in my life.

I for one had the good fortune of being born in a family that revered Sanskrit and produced more than its share of Sanskrit scholars.
I studied the subject as part of my syllabus in high school and PUC. For five years.
And then I became preoccupied with other mundane subjects of the universities to attain “worldly wisdom”.

A few months ago, almost after 10 years of disconnection from Sanskrit, I went to a private institute called “Aksharam” in South Bangalore and registered myself for the very first examination, Pravesha.
I had my first exam on 17th of Feb 08. I did very well.

I was so impressed with the number of people who were writing the exam along with me. There were men and women, young and old, students, retired men and home makers. There were children half my age writing this exam on a Sunday morning! There is still hope for this country!

Hopefully that was my first step of the thousand miles that lie ahead….. In the not too distant future, I see myself reading plays of Kalidasa, Bhasa, Shudraka and others.

Moving forward, I intend to post to this space, bits of what I learn in Sanskrit. Subhashitas(profound sayings), Prahelikas(riddles) and interesting facts that I wish to share with you all.

I hope you will read them and try to appreciate them. I also hope that some of you in some way will try to help me nourish this language and revive the lost glitter. Thank you.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Happy Valentine's Day to all my readers :) Here is a poem I wrote last year...

Through the journey of my blossoming
That began since I was a bud
To this day when I am a flower
I have collected in my heart
The droplets of rain
Sent to me
By the Gods of Love

The droplets converged to form a rivulet,
A small stream, a narrow brook,
Welling up in my heart,
Filling it to the brim
Several monsoons contributed
Their waters to the rivulet
To make it an ocean of Love

This love, like sacred waters
From a holy river
Shall be my humble offering
To the God of my dreams
Who will drink from my heart
And quench his thirst

An innocent love awaits

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini

A very good book. Pick your copy today.

The title of the book has nothing to do with the story (not even remotely)! never mind….

The experience of reading this is not very different from that of reading Kite Runner. Melancholy followed by relief followed by more melancholy and then relief …and it goes on…..
There are two protagonists just like Kite Runner but both women. (Kite Runner had both male protagonists)
One of the protagonists has a happy ending while the other one meets with tragedy. The story is set in the same background and the same period. Afghanistan after 1960. The Soviets, the Mujahideens, the Taliban and September 11th. As I said before, there are many similarities between the two works of this author.

While the story is definitely gripping, in some places it is very rushed. Be it titillation, be it fulfillment, be it melancholy or be it ecstasy, the experience of the emotion does not reach a crest or a trough but abruptly changes direction. There would have been much more to relish if the author had dwelled upon certain moments for a little longer.

The climax (and many of the important events) is presented in installments; subsequent installments brought to you with descriptions of unrelated, unnecessary details of trivia in between.
Like….the killing of a villain. The woman strikes him with an axe with all her hold your breath and read ahead..... the very next line talks about the plaster on the wall peeling off to reveal shapes of various countries….the dirty ceiling fan… and then the next chapter.... the villain is lying in a pool of blood. God! You find yourself shifting your attention from this to that ….. so abruptly….wonder what benefits people see in choosing such a style of writing…..

For me who has a perpetual hunger for “some more English”, this book had some good to offer. Check out the expressions.

“Superstitions were a woman’s preoccupation”

“Knead the dough with the heel of your hand”
(I didn’t even know that part was called the heel of the hand. I would have been so clumsy at expressing the same “knead with the base of your palm” or some imperfect phrase like that.

“Straps of his sandals flapped back and forth as he walked”
“She tightened the drawstring through the waistband of her trousers”
(I would have stammered and stuttered or used some Hindi word)

“Plates crusted with the outline of last night’s meals”
“People looking for gossip fodder”
“She finger-combed her hair quickly”

The intent is so perfectly and meticulously expressed! I could not help noting them all down. Need to start using them now.

I wonder what the next work of the author will be like….. It will be difficult to read more of Mujahedeen or Taliban…. Will not mind more Afghanistan though with happier and different stories……

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mobile Misery

If you want to know more about the soft skills of educated software engineers, you should stay in paying guest accommodations.

About 6 to 7 girls under one roof……..Loud blaring harsh ring tones. ….. one after the other, the phones begin to ring… mercifully, one of them is a wrong number….the girl hangs up. Mercifully again, the next one is a boyfriend; the girl leaves the hall and goes to some remote corner speaking in a soft voice.

But most of the others are friends or relatives….
The average length of talking is 40 minutes…they don’t care for the fact that you are watching a television program interestedly and their chattering is disturbing you… they don’t even get up to go to their rooms or outside the house, they don’t even talk softly …shout into the mouthpiece incessantly ….
Whether in a public place or in a private room…they are the same.

I plead for mercy…..and the response is quick. “It’s my life. It’s up to me to decide how long to talk, whom to talk to, what to talk and where to talk. How can anyone dictate the rules to me?”

Haven’t these girls heard of “mobile manners”?

“You are depriving me of my right to silence and peace, forcing me to hear all the gory details of your daily routine that are completely useless to me…..

Why should I not watch television, not listen to music, not sleep, not read, not sit quietly just so that you may tell some friend what dress you wore to office, how many emails you had to read, how bad the traffic was, who complimented you, how terrible the food was…who your latest crush is?

Why should I make so many sacrifices for you? WHY?”

Never before did I realize that upbringing matters SO MUCH!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Every morning soon after I wake up, the first thing I do is have four almonds. After that I have four pieces of amla(gooseberry). Sometimes I also have a neem capsule. I have been doing this religiously for the last 19 months. It is a show of amazing patience, persistence and perseverance by an otherwise lazy, languid and lethargic girl like me.

All this for what joy?

All this for the growth and well being of my long lustrous lashes. Yes. You got that right. A woman’s face looks beautiful only when her scalp is fertile and overflowing with healthy, bouncy, shiny hair. (Who ever said what is inside the head matters more?)

When I was a child, I used parachute coconut oil for a very long time. Once in a way I did use castor oil too. I did not have exposure to other exotic oils those days. Slowly, one by one I started adding other oils to my beauty box. Almond oil, olive oil, sesame, neem, tea tree, castor, Neelibhringadi and some other home made oils. Since I had so many oils, I decided to mix all of them in equal proportion.

Even the queens and princesses of those glorious days would not have pampered their hair the way I have in the last few years.

While there was so much diversity in the application of oil, there was absolute uniformity in the removal of the same. While the whole female community uses shampoo of various brands, flavours and fragrances, I have been a faithful patron of the age old Shikakai powder. And I don’t buy that from ordinary shops which sell adulterated stuff, but get it from my native village where they pluck Shikakai from the tree, grind it and then filter it.

I mix this pungent thing with soap nut powder and then proceed to make a paste of it with which I wash my hair.

Apart from all the above, there is an array of other measures I take to keep my hair rooted firmly in my head.
I avoid over washing and over combing. I make sure I get my beauty sleep everyday.
I dislike the sun to the extent that even on a cloudy day I carry an umbrella. But when someone told me that hair falling is partly due to want of sunlight which is a source of some vitamin, I would stand on my terrace under the sun.

The response to all this pampering has been varied. Sometimes, I can count on my fingertips the number of strands I loose everyday. Sometimes, hair falling is so severe that I am afraid to even comb my hair.

My hair on it’s part has been most discreet about itself. It refuses to tell me definitely what it likes and what it does not. The day I figure out the secret will probably be the happiest day of my life.

Two years ago, my state was so bad that I became paranoid and ran to Dr Batra’s for help. Just as I decided to subscribe to their treatment which was prohibitively expensive, the condition of my hair mysteriously returned to normal.

The last few months which I spent in California were probably the best so far. (I am talking about my hair.) Even after my return it was OK. But for some reason that God alone knows, my hair has started falling again. Alas!

It is the only cause of distress in my otherwise happy life. Nothing else makes me feel as helpless as this one problem! Being a woman is not easy! Not at all!

They say, it is the small things that give you immense happiness in life. True.
But it is also the small things that cause immense worry in life.

By the way, there are three phases in the life cycle of a hair. Anagen, catagen and telogen. Anagen is the phase of hair growth. Catagen is the phase when the hair stops growing. Telogen is that phase when hair falls. Now you know why I chose that title!

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

“A single death is a tragedy but a million deaths is statistic.”
How true! Although I learned about Afghanistan and the Taliban from newspapers and television channels for so many years, it was with the detachment of a bystander watching the scene from a safe distance.
But reading the book made it a personal experience as it reinforced the tragedy of one family. I am still recovering from the experience.

The story is not so much about Taliban as it is about kinship between various people; two friends, a father and a son, a man and his nephew….

As you start reading, you find the story quite gripping.

The silent suffering of Hassan really moves you.
A quiet pain wells up in your heart, making it heavier and heavier as you read more. The “expression of the lamb just before slaughter” is perhaps one of the most beautiful analogies I have ever read.

If I were asked to give a broad classification of tragedy contained in this book, I would say “Melancholy and Goriness”. As far as my choice is concerned, melancholy is preferable to any other form of tragedy.
While melancholy touches you deeply, goriness makes you sick. The reading becomes difficult with every occurrence of cruelty, blood, violence, brass knuckles and stone pelting. I can’t take too much of it in one gulp and that’s when I put the book down to take a break.

“Half the world does not know how the other half lives“.
The book is not as great as I expected it to be but it’s definitely worth reading for it brings to your attention, life in another part of the world which is so full of misery, so full of wretchedness that you start counting your blessings at once and become grateful for what you have.